Calls for beer tax cuts as CPI hits again

07 August, 2019 by Andy Young

The Brewers Association has said that a mere freeze of Australia’s beer tax rate is not enough, with the latest data revealing that Australians are paying the fourth highest beer tax rate in the world.

Furthermore, the research also shows that, compared to countries with similar economies, Australians are paying the highest proportion of their incomes in beer tax. And once again that beer tax rate has increased courtesy of the automatic CPI increase that hits beer drinkers every August and February.

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“It’s already a hefty tax at $2.19 per litre for packaged beer,” said Brett Heffernan CEO of Brewers Association of Australia. “Monday’s tax hike on beer makes a night with family or friends just a bit more of a stretch for many Australians.

“The CPI increases may not sound like much, but these six-month Government increases in beer tax are really adding up. Tax is already the biggest cost in the price of an Australian-made beer, accounting for almost half (42 per cent) of the price of a typical carton of full-strength beer. Of the $51.00 retail price, $21.35 is tax.

“Obviously, as of Monday, the tax on beer drinkers cuts that little bit deeper. Along with Norway, Japan and Finland, Australians pay the highest beer tax in the world. We then pay another 10 per cent in GST, including GST on the beer tax itself, at the retail end.

“Calls for a mere freeze in the six-monthly CPI hikes to beer tax just won’t cut it. All that does is lock-in the unreasonably high taxes Aussies are already paying. It gives punters no price relief.

“Only by addressing the rate of beer tax, which is way out-of-whack with the rest of the world, can Australians get the relief they deserve.”

Economist and Emeritus Professor Kym Anderson AC from the University of Adelaide has also released new analysis comparing Australian beer tax with OECD and EU countries.

“In Australian dollar terms, at $2.19 per litre in tax for packaged beer, Aussies pay more than three times the weighted OECD and EU member average of $0.70,” Prof Anderson said.

“It will come as no surprise to Australians who have travelled and noticed the price on a beer overseas compared to what they pay at home. The key reason for the difference is the greater rate of beer tax in Australia.”

Comparing Australian beer tax with other countries makes for harsh reading:

  • 18-times more than Germany ($0.12 per litre),
  • 15-times more than Spain ($0.14),
  • eight-times more than the US ($0.28),
  • six-times more than Canada ($0.37),
  • around five-times more than France ($0.47),
  • almost double that of New Zealand ($1.18);
  • almost two-fifths more than the UK ($1.37).

Heffernan says the analysis brings Australia’s beer tax regime into sharp focus.

“Australians are drinking less beer, and less alcohol in general, than at any point in the last half century. Moderation is now the norm for the great majority of Australians, who have a far more mature attitude to alcohol than decades ago,” he said.

“Prof Anderson’s report shows that compared with countries of similar per capita income (US$54,180 in 2016, according to the World Bank’s Atlas Method) Australian beer drinkers are paying a greater amount of tax on the beer they enjoy.

“Beer tax (excise) in Australia represented 0.59 per cent of federal tax revenue in 2017-18. In the EU, the average for beer excise as a proportion of tax revenue in countries at the same income level was just 0.37 per cent.

“Last year Aussie’s coughed up over $3.6bn in beer taxes – excise and GST. That headline figure is huge, and the day-to-day tax burden worn by Australians enjoying a drink is over-the-top.

“Too often it is forgotten that 84 per cent of the beer sold in Australia is made right here by Australians. Local beer production supports the full-time jobs of 103,000 Aussies and it generates over $16.5bn a year in economic activity.

“While we lament the decline, and in some cases death, of domestic manufacturing, it should be recognised that beer production has bucked that trend to see Australians making Australian beers for the Australian market.”